Engineering Process


 Comparison of the Scientific Method and the Engineering Design Process

The Scientific Method

The Engineering Process

1.     State your question

Define a need

2.     Do background research

Do background research

3.     Formulate your hypothesis, identify variables

Establish design criteria

4.     Design experiment, establish procedure

Prepare preliminary designs

5.     Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment

Build and test a prototype

6.     Analyze your results & draw conclusions

Test & redesign as necessary

7.     Present results

Analyze your results & draw conclusions

Present results



3 Stages Of Experimental Design


Scientific Method

Engineering Process

1.     Pre-experimental stage- scientific method steps 1, 2 & 3

2.     Experimental Stage- scientific method step 4 & 5

a.     Gather materials

b.     Know how to use the equipment

c.     Procedures written to be conducted over and over again by anybody

d.     Perform experiment once

e.     Observe & record data in your notebook

f.      Identify a single test variable & control other variables (if you did not already)

g.     Make any adjustments to your procedures and hypothesis

h.     Test experiment 10 times

i.      Observe & record data in your notebook

j.      Use mathematics for formulas, mean, median and mode

3.     Post- experimental Stage-

scientific method steps 6 & 7

1.     Pre-engineering Stage- steps 1, 2 & 3

2.     Engineering stage- 4, 5, & 6

a.     Gather materials

b.     Know how to use the equipment

c.     Designs, drawings (prepare premliminary designs) and procedures to be conducted over & over again by anybody to build your prototype

d.     Build and test your prototype

e.     Observe & record data in your notebook

f.      Identify what needs to be adjusted

g.     Make adjustments to your procedures and redesign the prototype as necessary

h.     Test the prototype again

i.      Observe & record data in your notebook

j.      Use mathematics for formulas, mean, median and mode

3.     Post-Engineering Stage- steps 6 & 7

a.     Analyze your results

b.     Draw conclusions

c.     Presents results


Overview of the Engineering Process

One important concept comes up again and again in the engineering process; it's called iteration. Iteration is a procedure in which you repeat a sequence of steps, each time coming closer to your goal. While it would be nice to do everything once and have a perfect design, there are actually some pretty good reasons why iteration is the norm. We will be iterating our description of the engineering process (see, we can't even describe the process without iterating), and by the end of this document you should have a good understanding of why iteration is a normal and in fact desirable part of engineering design!

Let's look at the engineering process in more detail:

1.Define a Need: What do users of your product need? Is it a new version of an existing product that has more speed, lighter weight, or lower cost? Or, is it a product with an entirely new combination of features never before seen, like the first light bulb invented by Edison in the 1800's.

2.Do Background Research: Investigate what others have already learned about your idea. Gather information that will help you design your invention. Don't reinvent the wheel.

3.Establish Design Criteria: Design criteria are requirements you specify for your design that will be used to make decisions about how to build the resulting product. For example, you might set out to design a baseball bat that has design criteria calling for the same strength and size as an aluminum bat, but half the weight. These criteria would rule out making the bat from balsa wood (not strong enough) or steel (too heavy). They would lead you to look at materials like carbon fiber composites (very cool stuff, but expensive).

4.Prepare Preliminary Designs: Good engineers look at a variety of different possible designs before moving forward. It's much faster and cheaper to look at alternatives on paper before actually building something. At the same time, a good set of plans will uncover problems that are expensive and time consuming to fix once you're actually building something. Each preliminary design is likely to have some good points and some bad. As you continue to generate new designs you incorporate more and more of your best ideas. You guessed it -- you iterate your designs!

5.Build and Test a Prototype: A prototype is the first full-scale and functional model of your invention. You build it from what you think is the preliminary design that best meets your design criteria. Sometimes it is impossible to meet all your design criteria and you need to choose a compromise.

6.Redesign & Retest as Necessary: Almost every prototype has unanticipated flaws, things you overlooked or design features that did not work the way you intended. Engineers redesign their products to "get the bugs out," and retest them until everything is as it should be. This process of redesign and retest is another example of iteration.

7.Present Results: In a science fair you present your results as with any other science fair project, by showing your work on a display board and by demonstrating your invention if possible. Of course, engineers working in industry present their results by putting the product into manufacturing so that others can buy it.

8.Steps 3-6 are the iterate portion of the project



Research Plan & Bibliography

If you follow the engineering process your bibliography will be the same as for other projects, but you need to ask additional questions in your background research plan. In addition to understanding the science of how your invention will work, you also need to:

1.Define your target user or customer. Everything man designs are ultimately for the use of another human. (Think about it, even products designed for animals or plants are first purchased by another human being!) Your choice of target user will sometimes have a big impact on your design criteria. For example, let's think about our baseball bat example. Imagine you want to design a bat with the same strength and size as an aluminum bat, but half the weight. If your target user is a child, then cost would also be very important. If your target is a professional baseball player, cost might be less important, but league rules about what materials can be used for bats would be very important. You might specify your target user in any number of ways. Here are some examples:
    - Age (old, young, infant)
    - Gender (in America you wouldn't sell many dresses made for boys!)
    - Occupation
    - Hobby interests
    - Amateur or professional
    - Disabled or not disabled
    - First time user or experienced user

2.Research what already exists to fill the need you defined, or needs that are very similar. No one wants to go to all the trouble of designing something they think is new, only to find that several people have already done it. Jeeez, would that be depressing? So, you want to investigate what's already out there, only then can you be sure that you're making something that better fills a need. And, keep in mind that what is "better" depends on your criteria. You might want to build something that's been around for hundreds of years, but do it with recycled materials from around the house. The device might be old, but the construction materials new (or used!).


3.Do researches that will help you establish your design criteria. Defining your target user and researching other products set the stage for your next step -- researching possible design criteria.

1.Questions to answer in the Research Report is below:

After you clarify the definition of your target user, you'll want to ask questions like this:

·  What does my target user [a child, an elderly person, whomever your target user is] need in a _________?

·  How much would my target user be willing to pay for a _________?

Then, ask questions to help you understand products or programs that fill similar needs to the need you identified:

·  What products or programs fill a similar need? [Duh, that question is pretty obvious.]

·  What are the strengths of products or programs that fill a similar need?

·  What are the weaknesses of products or programs that fill a similar need?

·  Why did the engineers that built products or programs that fill a similar need design them the way they did?

·  How can I measure my design's improvement over existing designs?




Keys to A Successful Project


1.     Select a topic

2.     Research and take organized notes

3.     Write everything in your organized notebook

4.     Write your purpose and need

5.     Write your research report

6.     Establish your criteria

7.     Plan, organize, design & test your prototype

8.     Write the scientific paper

9.     Create the exhibit

10.  Oral presentation

11.  Save everything you type on the computer and make a back-up copy on a jump drive, CD-rom or disk






Guidelines for the Engineering Project


A. Notebook (Composition)

            1. This is a notebook that contains the original records of the work you have done             on your project. A well-organized, complete notebook is crucial to a successful         project. It will be turned in to the teacher when the project is due.

            2. Label you cover with your name, homeroom number and school

            3. Write the page numbers in your hardbound composition notebook in top right              hand corner

            4. Design a table of contents, have sections for the following:

a.     Daily notes and reflections

b.     Background research

c.     Information contacts and supply sources

d.     Purpose, define a need, design criteria

e.     Preliminary designs / drawings

f.      Materials & tools

g.     Safety Procedures

h.     Qualitative & Quanitiative Observations

i.      Procedures to build prototype

j.      Observations of tested prototype (Data collection)

k.     Redesign prototype & observations

l.      Analyze Results (pictures, graphs)

m.   Discussion

n.     Conclusion

o.     New questions

            5. Record the progress of your project

            6. Each time you work on your project, write it in to the notebook and date it,       make sure you write it in the correct section

            7. Always include changes made to the procedures of the protptype

            8. Include all observations made during the experiment



B. Research Report Plan

1.     Complete the worksheet & have answers in your notebook

2.     Have a short history of similar inventions or experiments

3.     Ask mentors, parents or teachers about “What science concepts should I study better to better understand my science fair project?”, and “What areas of science does my project cover?”, and ask more questions…

4.     You should know if there are any scientific theorie, laws, or formulas that relate to your topic

5.     Identify the keywords in the needs statement (question) for your project.

6.     Generate questions to help you understand the science needed for your design.

7.     Identify your need.

8.     Define your target user or customer.

9.     Ask questions to help you understand products or programs that fill similar needs to the need you are trying to fill.

10.  Use your needs statement to identify some likely design criteria to research, and review the above list of design criteria to see if some apply to your project.

11.  Iterate!

12.  Use MLA format, check the chart

13.  Make sure you answered the who, what, where, when why & how about your topic

14.  Answer the following questions;

15.  Correct grammar, spelling, punctuation & capitalization included

16.  This section should answer: how to design and understand the scientific concepts and engineering process of your experiment, what is the best techniques for investigating the topic and how they are preformed, have others investigated this topic and what did they find, and why is the answer to your question important?

17.  500-700 words

Bibliography Examples 


Bibliography Examples

            1. Book or magazine

                        Baker, John S., “Science is Great”, New York: Holt Publishing Co.,  May 1990, p. 1-10.

            2. Web site

                        Bailey, Regina,,  Biology Site, March 9, 2000

            3. Conversation

                        Thomas, Liz, In person conversation, November 10, 2003

13.  Appendix

            a.  Rough draft


14. Research Plan (necessary for NEOSEF)

            a. topic question

            b. need, target, & criteria

            c. description of procedures

            d.  procedures

e. data analysis- describe the procedures you will use to analyze the data that answers research questions

            f. bibliography


Tri- fold Display Board

    1. You need to use a tri-fold display board, 76cm deep (30 in.) by 122 cm wide (48 in.) by 274 cm high or it can be larger, (NOT SMALLER)
    2. Information to be mounted will included:

a.     Left panel

·      Purpose / Need

·      Criteria

·      Materials & Procedures


b.     Center Panel

·      Title & Your name

·      Illustrations & pictures with labels

·      Graphs & Charts (Quantitative Obs.)

c.     Right Panel

·      Qualitative Observations

·      Discussion

·      Conclusion & Next Time & New Questions (found in your conclusion of your science paper)

3.     Check your display for correct spelling and grammar

4.     Don’t write directly on the board or on paper

5.     Use colored border behind your information

6.     Glue straight on the board

7.     Don’t show any tape

8.     Type everything you want written on the board, use a font size of at least 16 for the text. Larger for titles and labels

9.     use Arial or Times Roman font style

10.  Use white or pastel paper for the text to be printed on

11.  font sizes

1.     Title 150+      

2.     Headings 32+

3.     Subheadings 20+

4.     Main text 16

5.     Captions for graphs, pictures, diagrams 12

a.     Correct size board



1.     Tri-fold display board size is listed above and it’s organized, typed, and           neat

2.     Abstract

3.     Science Paper

4.     Notebook

5.     Photo album (not necessary, but it is very nice to have…)



 (Do not bring one, use pictures and diagrams instead.  I need you to keep the model for later, I may ask for it)


Oral Presentation

1.     Introduction

a.     Name and title of the project

b.     Purpose, Need, & Criteria

2.     Procedure summary and engineering process

3.     Observations and results summary / highlights

a.     Explain the charts and pictures

4.     Summarize your results

5.     Point to the information on your display board

6.     Conclusion

a.     Tell us if you reach your goal / criteria

b.     What would you do differently next time?

c.     What did you learn?

d.     New questions

7.     Be prepared to answer questions about your presentation

8.     3-5 minutes long

9.     Don’t fidget or do things that are distracting like chewing gum

10.  Be positive, enthusiastic, and confident


Presenting at Archbishop Lyke School Science Fair

1.     Your oral presentation is the same except

2.     Dress

                                              a.     During the evening part of the science fair, you must be there looking your best.

                                             b.     Dress as if you where going to a professional interview; no jeans, jean skirts, jogging pants, sweats or pajamas.

                                              c.     The way you are dressed during the science fair will count   towards your grade. 

3.     People will be there looking at your science fair project.  Your project represents you, so make sure you put forth the time and effort your project. 

4.     If you are not present during judging process you will not be eligible for a grade for presenting or an award at the fair. Then you will not have an opportunity to advance to the NEOSEF held at Cleveland State University




  • Van Cleave, Janice. Physics for Every Kid. New York: Wiley, 1991.
  • Wood, Robert W. Sound Fundamentals. New York: Learning Triangle Press, 1997.
  • Bohren, Craig F. What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks? New York: Wiley, 1991.
  • Editors of Consumer Guide. The Big Book of How Things Work. Lincoln Wood, Il: Publications International, 1991
  • Amato, Carol J. Super Science Fair Projects. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1994.
  • Bochinski, Julianne Blair. The Complete Book of Science Fair Projects, revised edition. New York: Wiley, 1996
  • Bombaugh, Ruth. Science Fair Success. Hillside, NJ: Enslow, 1990.
  • Frekko, Janet, and Phyllis Katz. Great Science Fair Projects. New York: Watts, 1992.
  • Markle, Sandra. The Young Scientist Guide to Successful Science Projects. New York: Beech Tree Books, 1990
  • Vacchione, Glen. 100 Amazing Make-It-Yourself Science Fair Projects. New York: Sterling, 1994
  • Berger, M. Lights, Lenses, and Lasers. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987
  • Branley, Franklyn M. The Electromagnetic Spectrum. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1979.
  • Filson, Brent. Exploring With Lasers. New York: Julian Messner, 1984.
  • Eyewitness books & videos
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy Videos





MLA format for the Science Fair report



MLA Guidelines


Standard size (8.5 x 11" in the U.S.)

Page Margins

1" on all sides (top, bottom, left, right)


12-pt. easily readable (e.g., Times Roman)


Double-spaced throughout, including captions and bibliography

Alignment of Text

Flush left (with an uneven right margin)

Paragraph Indentation

1/2" (or five spaces)

End of Sentence

Leave one space after a period

Page Numbers

On every page, in the upper right margin, 1/2" from the top and flush with the right margin put your last name followed by the page number.


Tables & Illustrations



Place tables and illustrations as close as possible to the text they refer to.

A table is labeled Table and given a number (e.g., Table 1). The table label and caption or title appear above the table, capitalized like a title, flush left. Sources and notes appear below the table, flush left.

Photos, graphs, charts or diagrams should be labeled Figure (usually abbreviate Fig.), and assigned a number (e.g., Fig. 1). The label, title, and source (if any) appear underneath the figure, flush left, in a continuous block of text rather than one element per line.

Order of Major Sections

See science packet


Plastic report folder

Additional Information

Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) -
MLA Style Guide


Reference Citation Format (To be used in the Research paper)

Type of Citation

Parenthetical Reference
MLA Format (Author - page)

Work by a single author

(Bloggs 37)

Direct quote of work by single author

(Bloggs 37)

Work by two authors

(Bloggs and Smith 37)

Work by three to five authors
(first time)

(Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, and Harlow 183-185)

Work by six or more author

(Harris et al. 99)

Two or more works by the same author

(Berndt, Shortened First Book Title 221) then
(Berndt, Shortened 2nd Book Title 68)

Two or more works in the same parentheses

(Berndt 221; Harlow 99)

Authors with same last name

(E. Johnson 99)

Work does not have an author, cite the source by its title

(Book Title 44) or
(Shortened Book Title 44)

Copyright © 2002-2007 Kenneth Lafferty Hess Family Charitable Foundation. All rights reserved.


A Checklist for Evaluating References

What Makes a Good Reference?

For a Good Reference, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Does your reference come from a credible source?

Yes / No

Is your reference current?

Yes / No

Is your reference objectively written, not biased towards one point of view?

Yes / No

Is your reference free of errors?

Yes / No

Does your reference properly cite its original sources?

Yes / No

Is the reference easy for other people to find or obtain?

Yes / No



Research Plan Checklist

What Makes a Good Background Research Plan?

For a Good Background Research Plan, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Have you identified all the keywords in your science fair project question?

Yes / No

Have you used the question word table to generate research questions?

Yes / No

Have you thrown out irrelevant questions?

Yes / No

Will the answers to your research questions give you the information you need to design an experiment and predict the outcome?

Yes / No

Do one or more of your research questions specifically ask about any equipment or techniques you will need to perform an experiment? (if applicable)

Yes / No

If you are doing an engineering or programming project, have you included questions from Engineering & Programming Project Tips? (check page 5 of your packet)

Yes / No




Engineering Research Paper Checklist

What Makes a Good Research Paper?

For a Good Research Paper, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Have you defined all important terms?

Yes / No

Have you clearly answered all your research questions?

Yes / No

Does your background research enable you to make a prediction of what will occur in your experiment? Will you have the knowledge to understand what causes the behavior you observe?

Yes / No

Have you included all the relevant math that you understand?

Yes / No

Have you referenced all information copied from another source and put any phrases, sentences, or paragraphs you copied in quotation marks?

Yes / No

If you are doing an engineering or programming project, have you defined your target user and answered questions about user needs, products that meet similar needs, design criteria, and important design tradeoffs?

Yes / No

 Copyright © 2002-2007 Kenneth Lafferty Hess Family Charitable Foundation. All rights reserved.


Experimental Procedure Checklist

What Makes a Good Experimental Procedure?

For a Good Experimental Procedure, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

List of your safety procedures


Have you included your criteria for the prototype?

Yes / No

Have you included a step-by-step list of all procedures?

Yes / No

Have you explained how the controlled variables will be maintained at a constant value?

Yes / No

Have you specified how many times you intend to repeat the experiment (should be at least three times), and is that number of repetitions sufficient to give you reliable data?

Yes / No

The ultimate test: Can another individual duplicate the experiment based on the experimental procedure you have written?

Yes / No

If you are doing an engineering or programming project, have you completed several preliminary designs?

Yes / No


Checklist for Conducting a Science Experiment

What Makes a Good Science Experiment?

For a Good Science Experiment, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Did you take detailed notes about your observations and record them in your laboratory notebook?

Yes / No

Did you collect your data using a data table?

Yes / No

Were you consistent, careful, and accurate when you made your measurements?

Yes / No

Were you careful to insure that your controlled variables remained constant so as not to affect your results?

Yes / No

If you ran into any unexpected problems, did you adjust your experimental procedure accordingly?

Yes / No

If you are doing an engineering or programming project, have you involved some of your targeted users in the testing of your prototype?

Yes / No



Data Analysis Checklist

What Makes for a Good Data Chart?

For a Good Chart, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Is there sufficient data to know whether your hypothesis is correct?

Yes / No

Is your data accurate?

Yes / No

Have you summarized your data with an average, if appropriate?

Yes / No

Does your chart specify units of measurement for all data?

Yes / No

Have you verified that all calculations (if any) are correct?

Yes / No

Shared qualitative observations using details and adjectives

yes / no

Label each picture, drawing, and chart and give it a title.


Yes / no

Determine mean, median, and mode

yes / no

Have examples of calculations

yes / no

Is there sufficient data to know whether your hypothesis is correct?

Yes / no


Graph Checklist

What Makes for a Good Graph?

For a Good Graph, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Have you selected the appropriate graph type for the data you are displaying?

Yes / No

Does your graph have a title?

Yes / No

Have you placed the independent variable on the x-axis and the dependent variable on the y-axis?

Yes / No

Have you labeled the axes correctly and specified the units of measurement?

Yes / No

Does your graph have the proper scale (the appropriate high and low values on the axes)?

Yes / No

Is your data plotted correctly and clearly?

Yes / No




What Makes for a Discussion section?

For a Good Discussion Section, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Stated how the data related to the hypothesis

yes /no

Explain what your data means

Yes / No

Summarize your experiment /data and what you found out about the experiment

Yes / No

State how you proved or disproved your hypothesis

Yes / No

Summarize and evaluate your procedures, what worked, what did not work (limitations) (what went well, what did not go well)

Yes / No


Conclusions Checklist

What Makes for Good Conclusions?

For Good Conclusions, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Do you summarize your results and use it to support the findings?

Yes / No

Engineering & programming projects should state whether they met their design criteria.

Yes / No

If appropriate, do you state the relationship between the independent and dependent variable?

Yes / No


Engineering Fair Project Abstract Checklist

What Makes for a Good Science Fair Project Abstract?

For a Good Science Fair Project Abstract, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Does your science fair project abstract include:

  • Introduction
  • Need, target audience, & criteria
  • Procedures summary / prototype
  • Results
  • Conclusions

Yes / No

Did you write the abstract so that the reader is motivated to learn more about your engineering project?

Yes / No



Engineering Fair Project Final Report Checklist


What makes a Good Science Fair Project Final report?

  For good science fair final report you should be able to answer yes to every question




Does your abstract include a short summary of the hypothesis, materials & procedures, results, and conclusion?

Did you state whether you met your design criteria?

Does your final report include:


·       Title page.

·       Abstract.

·       Table of contents.

·       Introduction, Need & target audience

·       research (your Research Paper).

·       Criteria, Qualitative & Quantitative Observations, Materials list.

·       Design & Engineering procedure.

·       Data analysis and discussion (including data table and graph(s), pictures).

·       Conclusions.

·       Ideas for future research

·       Acknowledgements.

·       Bibliography.

·       Rough drafts and worksheets

·       Plastic report cover












Engineering Project Display Board Checklist

What Makes for a Good Science Fair Project Display Board?

For a Good Science Fair Project Display Board, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question

Does your display board include:

  • Title in the top middle with your name                                                                     
  • Abstract on the table
  • Purpose & Need, left panel
  • Criteria,  left panel
  • Materials list, left panel
  • Experimental/ Engineering procedure, left panel
  • Data analysis including data chart(s),  graph(s) and pictures in the middle
  • Picture & or design of the prototype
  • Discussion, top right panel
  • Conclusions (including ideas for future research), right panel
  • Next Time & questions, bottom right panel

Yes / No

Are the sections on your display board organized like a newspaper so that they are easy to follow?

Yes / No

Is the text font large enough to be read easily (at least 16 points)?

Yes / No

Does the title catch people's attention, and is the title font large enough to be read from across the room?

Yes / No


Did you use pictures and diagrams to effectively convey information about your science fair project?

Yes / No

Have you constructed your display board as neatly as possible?

Yes / No

Did you proofread your display board?


Did you follow all of the rules pertaining to display boards for your particular project?

Yes / No


Yes / No